EPISODE 014: Cintas Sales Star Tory Clark Relates Lessons Learned on the College Basketball Court to Sales Success
Tory Clark is a former college basketball player turned Regional Sales Training Director for Cintas. He currently overseas Sales, Training and Development for all sales partners at Cintas from Philadelphia to the pan handles of Florida. Just eight years ago, Tory started his sales career after a two-year program as a Management Trainee in Raleigh, North Carolina. During Tory’s first two years in sales, he earned back to back Diamond Level Award years where he finished in the top 5% of the company in sales. Following Tory’s second year, he was promoted to a Sales Manager in Virginia Beach where he rebuilt a sales team to a dynamics growth machine in just two years. Following Virginia Beach, Tory was granted another promotion as a Sales Manager for the Washington, D.C. market. In just three years Tory lead his market new business growth and sales partners on his team being promoted. Tory graduated from Elizabeth City State University with a Business Management and Minor in Marketing degree.
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Here’s a transcript to the podcast:
Tory Clark: I wasn’t born a great Sales Rep. I wasn’t born a sales guru at all. I still don’t consider myself a sales guru. However, what I relate to knowing new sales partners, partners looking to get into sales is this is something naturally you do not have to be good in starting off.
However, you have to put forth the effort. You got to have the right mindset, the right attitude, think the visualization of what you want to achieve in sales and that to me was the starting point of really looking at a sales career and what I could actually achieve if I put forward my just relentless work ethic alongside constantly being a student of sales. Just to sum it all, one thing I always let partners know is “Hey, I didn’t start in sales. I actually started off driving the Cintas trucks, working in the back of the plan and actually last but not least becoming an Office Manager for the company while responsible for collecting accounts receivable and accounts payable, believe it or not.”
Fred Diamond: We’re going to talk today about your sales career, get some great tips on how sales professionals need to take their game to the next level. Tory, how’d you first get into sales as a career?
Tory Clark: Believe it or not, a funny story is I got into it by actually simply being passionate over the phones when it came to myself calling on our customers looking to collect accounts payable money from all of our existing customers. Finalizing our Management Trainee Program at Cintas, I was promoted to an Office Manager at our Raleigh, North Carolina location and one of my big focal points, my big priorities was getting our accounts receivable down by 5% for the entire location.
Along with myself and two other accounts payable partners and accounts receivable partners, we spent day in and day out on the phones calling all of our customers, collecting checks, collecting payments over the phone and my only training was a phone script that was given to me. On my first day, I had to go home and learn it, master it and really learn the importance of how to handle objections with our customers.
Within 6 weeks of actually constantly calling customers, getting excited once I was able to collect money, learning how to handle the objections, the current Sales Manager at that point in time heard me on the other side of a cubicle and pulled me into a conference room and asked me if I ever thought about getting into sales and I let him know simply “No, I really never thought about and think I’ll be good at it.”
Well, he emphasized to me one key thing that always stuck with me was “You have the passion, you have the attitude and you have the energy day in and day out, no matter if you are getting hanged up phones I’ve noticed, to be a great sales partner because you’re very passionate about Cintas but also I can tell you have a drive that you will not let one ‘No’ affect you throughout the day. How about you come to one of our meetings next week? Take a look at pretty much what we do inside that we that we call aka. Sales Bull Pen.”
I went to their Monday kick-off meeting and being a former athlete I felt like I was back inside of a locker room per se where everyone’s energized first thing Monday morning, fighting for one sole goal of winning. And then, back in 8 years ago, winning for us was a score on our location and hitting our sales goals numbers and once I went to that first sales meeting on that Monday I went right to our General Manager and let him know that I was looking to get into sales. I think I had the passion and also the natural raw talent that I can be good in sales and help grow the location and within two months we found my replacement and next thing you know I’m actually in sales training really focusing on the day in and day out being a student of sales and that starts my sales career, believe it or not.
Fred Diamond: What exactly do you sell today? Tell us a little bit about Cintas and tell us what excites you about that.
Tory Clark: Cintas is the largest uniform and facilities service supplier in North America. The cool thing about Cintas is we are able to get companies whether it’s restaurants, hotels, hospitals, education sectors, any small mom and pop business or a Fortune 500 business ready for the work day. Things such as work or pair of garments that help actually with image identification and safety for companies similar to Kasi or The Marriott Hotel we provide all facilities service supplies from your microfiber mops, microfiber towels, to even restroom supplies, again, that companies no matter how big or small need, in order to either meet their business goals, help improve their image, help reduce housekeeping cost or either help around an employee benefit that employees can utilize on daily basis.
Within Cintas we actually currently service over 433 locations across the United States. What wakes me up and keeps me excited about a company that I’ve been working for since I graduated college is the services, the products that we provide to any business across the United States but I would say the biggest thing is the company’s culture. We’re a family started company. We started in the great depression area, a lady from a rag business now to billion dollar business and the partners they come to work every single day with the sole goal of exceeding our customers’ expectations while actually maximizing the long term value of our shareholders and working partners.
It’s something that I kind of keep in the forefront no matter what small or big decision I have to make on a daily basis. I just love the company I work for. We provide things that companies can use and see and really tangibly benefit on a daily basis but also every single partner from the partners who are driving the trucks to the partners selling the goods out in the forefront or to our partners working in the plant have that same passion and commitment to exceeding our customer’s expectations.
Fred Diamond: Very good. You mentioned that you’ve been with Cintas pretty much your whole career. You started out in accounts payable, I believe it was that you said. I guess accounts receivable.
Tory Clark: Accounts receivable, accounts payable. Accounts receivable was a big priority once I graduated. We have to drive our AR down and coming from the Service Department I really had no clue how impactful accounts receivable was for running a company, most specifically a company like Cintas. I learned very quickly why we had to drive that number down and passionately I can say we were able to get the number down, not necessarily to 5% but actually down to at least 6 and ‘til this day I can go back to that facility or have conversation with partners and they still remember me on the other side of that cubicle being loud, boisterous and talking with customers with passion and emotion and collecting those checks.
Fred Diamond: Very good. What are some of the key lessons you learned from either that job or the first time you got into sales that have carried you through the rest of your career?
Tory Clark: The first thing I can always go back to when it goes to sales is sales is 80% effort and 20% skill. When that was taught to me a while ago that really resonated home with from a athletic background. Being a guy who’s 6”6 foot but getting into college and learning “Hey, I need to put on some weight because these guys are much stronger than me” was something where I had to put forth more effort whether it’s in the gym with my diet, getting up earlier back in college and I resurrected back to that when I came to Cintas.
Specifically in sales that “Hey, while I’m working on my sales skills daily and looking to become a sales guru, one thing that I can control is going to be my effort” and the first part that was really trained to me for a couple of weeks and still even today I train my sales partners on this relentlessly is the prospecting piece and prospecting has a lot to do with your preparation but has more to do with the effort that you put in day in and day out with your goal, ultimate goal, I tell people that meeting over a hundred strangers a week and some people say “Hey, that’s easy, just go out and shake hands and meet a hundred strangers a week.”
But, if you get 25 of those back to back to back, it makes it very hard to get out of that car. My big goal, my big starting point I learned was no one’s never going to outwork me. I’m going to get up early and everyone who gets up I’m going to be on the territory when none of my competitors are in the territory and I’m going to make sure I stay 30 minutes after the perceived golden hours of sales to ensure that I may be hitting one or two more qualified decision makers that are staying a little bit later in their office when potentially the secretary that was blocking me has left for the day. That 80% effort is something that’s always resurrect me and things that I can control is my attitude and just getting on the field and what I call meeting strangers, meeting as many strangers as your potential as you can on a daily basis.
Fred Diamond: Time and time again, prospecting success comes down to the amount of qualified decision makers, you used that word before, that are in your pipeline. Tory, let’s talk about a successful mentor, an impactful sales career mentor that you had and how they impacted your career. Who was that person and tell us a little bit about how they impacted your career?
Tory Clark: That person, I would say, is actually my uncle, believe it or not. He actually owns three businesses in North Carolina and growing up as an athlete down in North Carolina I spent a lot of my summers actually working for him in his I.T. business, in his landscaping business and also in his real estate business. And, one thing that he taught me again was you need to have multiple streams of, not only cash flow, but multiple streams of ways to help market your business.
I learned different strategies, whether it’s knocking on doors, whether it’s creating your own marketing material or just attending networking events on a weekly basis. That may have been considered boring to me back then but it was something that I was able to see short-term or long term where you have to make sure you’re doing all the small things which goes back to prospecting in order to build your pipeline.
The second thing which even ‘til to this day I still resurrect with myself is similar to sports, the work that you put in behind the scenes when no one is looking will eventually show in the light and whether as me now on a daily basis reading, reading pod, listening to podcast, listening to YouTube, taking the extra steps to get up early or in workout, I release my endorphins so I can get the day started with much more energy versus having to just depend on a coffee. I try to really focus on the small things and sweat the details on a daily basis that’s going to help me not only short-term but help me influence maybe another partner who’s just getting all started in sales or someone that I am 100% responsible for in ensuring they’re successful in their Cintas career.
Fred Diamond: Very good. That’s an interesting story. Do you still keep in touch with your uncle?
Tory Clark: Yes, yes, probably I talk to him two to three times a week. He is retired now so he comes out to D.C. a lot, spending some time up here and only going through and looking at the mines but checking out some of the sports games too. Someone I depend on very dearly and I trust dearly too to pass along advice to me whether good or bad.
Fred Diamond: Let’s go back to the number one specific sales success or win from your career that you’re most proud of. Tory, take us back to that moment, the number one sales success you’ve had or win that you’re most proud of.
Tory Clark: I guess, it was one of my first big accounts that I sold as a Sales Rep in Raleigh. The account actually they made pickle jars, believe it or not and it was a place that I just kind of mentioned the effort piece. It was a place that was located in one of my furthest Northern parts of my territory. It was about a two-hour drive back from part of that territory to home and needless to say I had made numerous phone calls. I was not able to get in contact with a qualified decision maker. I had sent numerous e-mails, no response.
I actually finally decided on a Thursday after 5 to stop at Saint-Gobain Containers, pretty much near where I was going to spend some extra time up in that area and get home pretty late. I was able to get past security and before you know it I was speaking with the Plant Manager at that point in time, found out exactly who they were using and more importantly what issues they were having simply by stopping in.
Long story short, that account took about a year to close but it was a lot of follow-up and I go back to it wasn’t a ton of sales skills. It was just follow up, being consistent and being persistent, stopping in, calling the customers back, calling the qualified decision makers back, sending handwritten letters, sending samples and long story short, I did a big survey for the company, for the employees to really rate how their current program was currently going and doing that Microsoft word survey, sending it out, going through it during our lunch periods for a full week early in the morning, late at night, 4-shift company, I was able to then send the information to the CFO and before you know it, it was in December, I received the phone call on a Friday afternoon from the Purchasing saying they’re ready to switch over to Cintas and that one account always sticks with me for a few reasons.
It helped me solidify my first Diamond Level. It was my very first big account, what we call Target Account Closed which boosted my confidence through the roof. It made my Sales Manager very proud which ultimately made me proud because I found that I was motivated by recognition not just money. I love recognition. And finally, it was a life-changer, coming from a blue-collar family, getting an account that big from a monetary standpoint where you can pretty much make as much money as you want to in sales that was one of the bigger accounts starting off that really helped me personally and professionally for myself and also for my family.
Fred Diamond: Did you ever question being in sales? Did you ever question that career move? Was there ever a moment, Tory, where you thought to yourself “It’s too hard” or “It’s just not for me”?
Tory Clark: Yes and I’ll go back to where the first big account was sold in Henderson, North Carolina. That was actually in that same area the first time where I was doubting myself being in sales for a while in a meeting, whether it’s a Tuesday or Thursday when I was in that area. That area was a very lonely area. As you got in those throughout the day, sometimes your phone reception did not work and I started questioning like “Am I actually good? Can I be good in sales?” and, more importantly starting out, “Why aren’t people saying ‘Yes’ to me?” and that one question stuck with me for awhile where, again, reaching back out to a mentor, “Hey, is there something that I’m doing to get customers to not believe my product or say ‘yes’ to Tory or am I just prospecting in the wrong area?”
That one key slogan that someone told me awhile back was first and foremost, “Prospects aren’t saying ‘no’ to you. They’re saying ‘no’ to the product or service you’re providing because you’re not providing them enough reasons why to go with your service and product.” Starting off and I think it had a lot to do with my athletic background, I would get very emotionally hijacked per se if a prospect did not want my products and services and I took it the wrong way versus self-reflecting, having my daily one-one-ones and really focusing on “Okay, what is one or two things maybe I’m seeing in a process or not seeing in a process that is causing me to either A – lose deals or not get that phone call back?” and once I put the emotions out of it, meaning like “Hey, put your emotions to the side and really focus on the process because I was good at the effort piece.”
I started noticing that I was selling more deals or I was starting to now listen better which I was able to handle more objections and actually close more deals from follow up standpoint too. The listening piece which you mentioned earlier too from a sales process but also taking your emotions out of it because sales can be lonely when you’re in your territory by yourself especially when you’re getting twenty ‘Nos’ potentially before twelve noon and you still got a whole another afternoon so building up that wall, per se, inside your body where that ‘No’ is not bothering you but is just pushing you forward.
Fred Diamond: Tory, let’s get some of your tips. What’s the most important thing you want to get across to selling professionals who are listening to today’s podcast to help them improve their careers?
Tory Clark: Thanks, Fred. Now, I’m going to give you one big simple thing that I typically kick off all my sales trainings and conversations with, with any new sales partner is “Be where your feet are.” This is a slogan that was rolled out a few years ago, believe it or not by Nick Saban during one of his football camps and it really focuses on this powerful engagement and ‘being where your feet are’ specifically in sales can sometimes be difficult to do from a standpoint.
If we have three or four new presentations that day we may be sitting in one but be thinking about the second when we have to go on. I truly believe whether you’re training yourself, whether you’re picking up a phone, whether you’re face-to-face with a client, the rule of powerful engagement and being exactly where your feet are you will find yourself more focused, more laser like when it comes to listening to what the prospect is telling you which you can utilize during your sales proposition but more importantly finding yourself getting more done, ultimately being able to see more prospects throughout the day and throughout the week because if you’re where your feet are and you have that powerful full engagement, that means you were where your feet are when you prepared the night before, when you’re preparing in the office, when you listen to the customer and you’re asking him what to bring.
Everything from a powerful engagement standpoint and being where your feet are kind of goes hand in hand and the more that you can have laser like engagement with everything that you’re doing in the forefront of you whether it’s a cold call or there’s a new presentation, whether it’s getting samples and a presentation together, everything will increase tenfold and you’ll find yourself closing more deals, as well as actually speeding up the sales process.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the things that you do to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Tory Clark: Good question. The very first thing I always do is every single morning I make it a point to either listen to a podcast, something on YouTube sales related or something motivational related. It gets my fire going. It starts driving me and also continues to put the purpose in my why in the forefront. The second thing I do and this was something I stole shamelessly from Grant Cardone, The 10X Principles, is ensuring that every single morning I am writing down two or three personal and professional goal that I want to achieve throughout the year and these goals can be very big goals and at the end of the night before I go to bed, I want to write down two to three professional and personal goals that I want to achieve the next morning.
The reason why I do that is typically, first week in January, everyone has New Year’s resolutions so most people in January will write down their resolutions one time a year, while I look at if I can ultimately set myself up to write down my goals twice a day for every single day of the year, I will be more likely to not only hit and execute my goals but when things get tough or when things get rough throughout the week or throughout a quarter or throughout a year specifically in sales, I’ve written down potentially over 300 times my personal and professional goals that’ll help me continue my drive, whether things are good or things are bad and I can say here and say that every single day I am executing that first thing in the morning, first thing in the afternoon but I am getting really close to doing it by simply having it at my night stand or in the bathroom, prior to shutting down for the day and it has helped me really keep my purpose and my why in the forefront on a daily basis which ultimately drives me to be the best I can be.
Fred Diamond: Very good. What’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success? What’s something big that you’re working on you want to share with us?
Tory Clark: Number one is making sure I’m surrounding myself around professionals that are like-minded but better than me and what I mean by that is I want to feel uncomfortable being around certain people in an environment because there are people that I want to strive to be better than or be just like and just finding yourself getting involved with networking events, traveling with certain people that you look up to naturally, ultimately lifts you and makes you a better person professionally or personally because you may gain, whether you see something or hear something one or two nuggets that you can apply to your daily life, you can apply to your presentation skills, your business acumen and your executive acumen also.
That first thing is just surrounding myself with ‘A plus’ players personally and professionally. The second thing is holding myself accountable to being the absolute best in sales for my company I can potentially be in ensuring every single Friday that I am delivering what I call Sales Boot Camp to our region. The best Sales Boot Camp, hour-long training program every single Friday to each individual division. Right now, I’m not only doing my location business in trainings which I’ll be flying out to shortly too, I’m also responsible for doing webinars every Friday where I have to stand in front of the sales partners but I’m having an hour-long where it could be over a hundred sales people in one call where I had to really bring it and just naturally if you’re fully preparing your diving in and you’re coming out with new fresh information every single week for 52 weeks it naturally makes you better and I’m just committed to being the best I can be which naturally will help my region be the best they can be also.
Fred Diamond: Sales is hard. People don’t return your calls or your e-mails. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career because you didn’t start off in sales but what is it about sales as a career now that keeps you going?
Tory Clark: For me now is we talked about money and we talked about recognition but we didn’t really talk about freedom but in sales you do have the opportunity to create whatever you want to create in your personal and professional life and one thing that I really love about sales is it is what you put in and it’s similar going back to college and athletics and I even watch professional sports now.
The players that are the most prepared to take care of their body and from the small details of their rest or diet, to them mastering their craft meaning “Hey, they are at practice early but they’re staying late and guess what they’re getting up early. ” It’s the same correlation to a great sales partner, someone who truly takes care of knowing their personal self. They really care about their personal brand but they care about their professional brand and both goes hand in hand where a person who truly cares about exceeding their expectations and carrying themselves of the highest standard will ultimately never cut corners when it comes to training and development.
But, also being their absolute best they can be inside of every single prospect that they’re either shaking hands with or presenting to, which naturally goes back to that powerful full engagement and ensuring whatever you’re doing you’re fully prepared and part of that is just being an expert and, what I call a black belt, in your industry by dedicating yourself to your craft every single day.
Fred Diamond: Give us one final thought that you’d like to share to inspire the sales game changers listening in today.
Tory Clark: Okay. I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give you three little small nuggets. They’re all in my mind to make sales easy but to continue getting better at sales and number one is really just committing to training every single as basic as that sounds. Training is something that does not have to be in front of a group setting. Training is something that we can all control on a daily basis, whether as a rating, role playing in front of a mirror, studying products and services that you or your company is actually asking you to sell, getting passionate about everything that you’re learning and really just becoming a knowledge black belt expert in sales.
You not waiting on your Sales Manager or your Sales vice-President or whoever is responsible for your Sales Department, as a Sales Representative where you’re starting off new or you’ve been in sales, ask yourself “Are you taking twenty minutes a day by yourself to be the best sales partner you need to be by training?” Number two is going to be pretty much creating opportunities and creating opportunities goes back to the old saying is “Try to talk to as many strangers as possible every single day” which if you want to utilize a sales term, ‘Get really relentlessly great at prospecting’ and that just means getting outside of your own comfort zone and taking massive action in everything you do from a prospecting piece.
Whatever your company’s quota is telling you to do and you’re brand new, you have to ten extra massive actions levels in order to achieve those goals or help you reach your personal best. Instead of taking regular action, I’m very big on taking massive action when it comes to everything you’re doing starting with talking with as many strangers as possible, specifically if you’re just getting started in sales and maybe you’re going into a brand new territory or if you’re promoted. And then, the third piece which would be, again, we tend to thrown around a lot.
We tend to throw around a lot is everything you do make sure you’re where your feet are at. Powerful full engagement in front of every single prospect, whether big or small, you would notice yourself getting more done with that customer in eliminating any potential objection handlings or any potential error that have may have missed out on because you’re thinking about your next sales call. The powerful full engagement as a sales professional will help you dramatically with your listening skills which will ultimately help you from a value selling proposition versus a tell-sell proposition.
And, as I close it out, keeping in mind the 80% effort, 20% skill, continue driving your inputs by focusing on the effort piece which is the prospecting piece while your skill set is being mastered every single day through your daily training with your company but also do your daily training by yourself.